Posts Tagged ‘common core standards’

Coming Nigh: More Change

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Consider the April 2013 San Francisco Chronicle article about real estate agents being asked to show homes in the ‘right’ peninsula areas. Peruse the April New York Times article about Utah schools offering dual-language classes. The education-oriented reader bites her lip to keep from smirking.

The ‘right’ area to California teachers means one near a school with high scores for the California Academic Performance Index because the home can be sold later for more money than homes by schools with low scores. Utah wants all those public school kids to make money when they grow up by speaking another language so they can be Mormon missionaries to foreign countries first and then high earners in the global market forever after. Bilingual education finally gets its due.

But make no mistake! The major school district business across the nation, high-scoring or bilingual, is to establish new teacher and administrator evaluation models. Just google ‘school evaluation’ and an abundance of ‘for and against’ articles come forward. Keep in mind: the conflict heats up when a plan is devised, and the percent of student test success is built-in. Must the teacher’s evaluation show that 30% or 10% or 50% of her students have reached proficiency for the year? Who cares except those who want a number, the higher the better? Is that proof of a good teacher?

The controversy gets more complex because, at the same time, 45 of the fifty states in the union are preparing to establish Common Core State Standards (CCS). In California the curriculum content goal is to transition by 2014-2015. You can figure that teachers are not uneasy about real estate values near their school, but may agonize over changes to dual-language policies and procedures in order to account for CCS. Or be troubled by imminent changes to the assessment tools used for evaluation.

The top need, however, is long-term professional development for teachers before changes are made. Roll your eyes if one-day workshops are all the school gets for the implementation being asked. Raise your eyebrows when no coaches model what is being suggested for the classroom. Pinch your thumb against your finger if funds are skimpy for the tools you will need. Shake your head if piles of papers are handed out, but no time is given for collaboration.

How about professional development at your school that uses “inquiry teams” which meet often during the year to learn, practice, question, and promote change?

Fix Schools? Why Not Ask a Teacher?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
California elementary school

California elementary school

On my school’s agenda this year is California’s Common Core Standards. For once professional development workshops are filling  our in-service days ahead of time. A district administrator is earning my thanks for preparing all of us for implementation in the school year 2014-2015. One good thing! No last minute confusion. No being told to start now when you haven’t even learned what is being required.

I’m willing to try out the new standards. The old California Standards set was frustrating to me since some fourth grade standards had no precedents in earlier grades.

Thus, someone has been listening to us teachers, although the current squabble continues to be conflicting views on how to “fix” schools. As if all schools in California and in the United States are falling apart and students don’t know anything! How can that be? At the same time newspapers and on-line results celebrate improved student achievement levels.

Ask! Every teacher can tell you what a good school looks like. I teach elementary grades, so I know that a decent facility is important. Adequate technological equipment and resource teachers make the school even better. Most important is that all personnel support a common school program, from the custodian to the administrator. Teachers may use different strategies to help students learn, but the outcomes are clear. Decent common core standards play a role here.

Like my school, a good school has parents that understand the school’s plan and support every child. It has an administrator that stands by his/her students and teachers and constantly broadcasts the school’s improvements.

Having been through years of budget strife, I know that good public schools are supported by enough money, smaller class sizes, and enough special teachers to help the weaker academic students. In spite of the opinion of many education experts, unions that keep their eyes out for backsliding or reduction in support of students and teachers is valuable.

I work in a middle-class elementary school. Most of my students learn well, but I know what to do to “fix” schools that must improve. My first piece of advice is that 21st century children have more to learn. So, when I was young and the children I teach were younger, they attended pre-school classes. Many impoverished areas do not have parents who can afford pre-school for their children. You want a good school? Find funds for a pre-school or two years of kindergarten experience.

Last, I think a good school doesn’t squander its resources–people or time or money. Everyone in any good school has high expectations for student achievement and no one forgets that success can happen if kids are thinkers (not answering multiple choice questions), good citizens (but not robots), and engaged in learning.

Exhort the state and Congress to address the issues in impoverished areas, both rural and urban, in this country. Many examples of school districts that have turned around exist in this country. Keep at it and although I may sound idealistic, all schools can do better.

Funds and New Tests A-comin’

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Good news for a new year! No cuts in California’s school funds ever since tax initiatives were passed in November 2012 elections. Moreover, Governor Brown has proposed to deliver more money to schools and districts based on need.

What a change a vote makes!

Of the 6 million children in California schools, more than 2 million are below the poverty line so it makes sense to this blog’s positions to provide more funds to those schools with large numbers of English language learners and low-income students. After all, an abundance of education articles have stressed the need to focus on this nation’s poverty levels if we want to increase student education achievement for all groups. For instance, see Business Week‘s September 2012 article.

The mantra in Mike Honda’s (D-California) San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece (January 23, 2013) supports funding for a school’s needs. He offers this outcome: “Our society is richer, our economy is stronger, workforce is better and our outlook is brighter-and, consequently, we witness lower welfare costs, lower crime and lower levels of incarceration.”

Too bad a number of citizens say it ain’t so, refusing to look at the evidence, instead of making it so.

At the same time, the California Superintendent of Schools, Tom Torlakson, has issued a report to detail a move to computerized yearly state tests that are going to begin by 2015. His press release describes the way the plan will be implemented. An estimated $1 billion would update the state’s Common Core Standards curriculum, provide teacher training on testing geared to those standards, and get more computers into more school classrooms.

This blog hopes these potential changes to California schools, funds that provide revised curriculum and testing, resolve the concerns often heard about the quality of United States’ public schools. Still there is one sad question that fills the mind. The children who need the most resources are still often consigned to the most ignored schools that have not and will not without relentless emphasis provide adequate student achievement.

It will take vibrant collective transformation to allow that impoverished “every girl” mentioned in President Obama’s Inaugural Address to rise up.

The Youngest Child

Monday, November 12th, 2012

In case you don’t realize…the youngest child entering first grade is now expected to read and comprehend simple text. The Common Core Standards have promulgated this expectation for first graders (agreed to by 46 of the 50 United States).

No longer can a first grade child just know which way is up for a book-that’s for Kindergarten or better yet, pre-school. It’s a given for the parent, pre-school leader, or Kindergarten teacher to read to and with a child before he/she enters first grade.

Did you know that only 10 states and Washington, DC, provide full-day Kindergarten? Half-day Kindergarten is mandated in 34 states and 6 more states have no requirement at all for a Kindergarten program in public schools. Note that in California which is starting a 2-year transition Kindergarten program for children not turning 5 until the last four months of the year, the main focus is to prepare young students to be ready for reading.

The 50 states complain constantly about the cuts that must be made to school budgets because of limited state revenue. A sardonic eye looks for the next crisis, hoping not to hurt the low-income 5 year olds that fill many public school Kindergartens and need the benefit of reading readiness.

So, no library reading program for 3-4 year olds near your home?

No affordable pre-school at your local school?

No Head Start? Remember, the federally supported and well-documented successful program for low-income pre-school students, only has funds to treat 1/3 of current 3-4 year olds.

No Kindergarten in your area?

Nevertheless, every parent takes their child to the pediatrician.

That’s where the parent can find “Reach Out and Read,” begun in Boston, Massachusetts. The program can be found at 5000 pediatric medical sites in the United States. It provides books to 5.1 million children under 5 and shows parents how to introduce books to their sons and daughters before they enter formal school training.

In California alone there are 615 sites, 601 thousand children, and 900 thousand books of benefit because of the model. New York’s Belleview Pediatric Center was featured on the Newshour, Thursday, November 8.

You can volunteer! Go to the website and find out how to offer support.

Charter Schools-the Latest

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

David Sirota, liberal but not an expert on education details, wrote a piece for the New York Times, Friday, March 23, headlined “Charter schools aren’t solving education ills.”

a beach town elementary in California

a beach town elementary in California

No kidding! But dutiful as this blog is, earlier charter school posts, dated 9-9-2009, 12-9-2009, 1-27-2010, and 6-23-2010, were reviewed to see if some other answer could be found. Nope.

The topic is brought up every few months. According to Sirota “inevitably the conversation turns to charter schools-those publicly funded, privately administered institutions.” As of 2012 the statistics claim 2 million American students at charter schools all over the United States. Compare that number to 6 million students in traditional public schools in California alone.

In 2012, looking at current deficits, states can’t bear to rewrite state tests, put new evaluation procedures in place, provide adequate funds to train teachers at colleges, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools, the main reason education “experts” always claim charter schools are the “silver bullet.” Even so all those revisions must occur to close the achievement gap-the main goal for which charter schools have been contemplated.

The National Education Association (NEA) “believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.”

And there’s the problem as we’ve read in report after report, some mentioned in Sirota’s column. The main criticism is that the charter school close to your home may not improve the child’s academic success (as shown by test scores). Why? For all the same reasons that your traditional neighborhood pubic school may not be up-to-par.

Then, what’s to talk about for your next conversation? Here’s the list. Charter and traditional public schools can insist on a test that follows the Common Core Standards that all but a few states have agreed to. Doesn’t have to be the same test-who wants to be accused of manipulating the free market for developing tests. The question once the tests are developed probably should be can the tests be compared to find out if the achievement gap among students is closing.

Next, young children who enter Kindergarten before 5 years of age might be allowed more than one year to prepare themselves for the rigors of first grade reading and mathematics in a 21st century education. Is your child young and does the local school (charter or traditional) provide this transitional opportunity if he/she is not ready? It’s been put off in California.

Finally,many education go-getters advocate for “choice” by parents. Home-schooling is the choice of one GOP candidate. To top it off, a fee voucher is put forward by so-called authorities to choose a parochial, private, or charter school. Charters are authorized with the promise to improve student achievement as a condition of relief from some of the rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools. However, since the public school district already pays for a chartered school, why would a voucher help?

For writers of this blog, as the NEA suggests, employees of such schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations statutes as traditional public schools. In addition, charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights as their counterparts in traditional public schools.

There we are-stuck with a conflict that cannot and will not be compromised. No new state tests, no new evaluation procedures in place, no adequate funds to train teachers at colleges, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools.